This may well be the shortest blog post of all times, but it is to raise a question that I have never had properly explained:

Why is is that Sunday’s public transport service levels have to be worse than Saturday’s?

In all my catching of public transport over the years I’ve seen no real evidence that patronage is much less on a Sunday than a Saturday, except for in the evening. So why can’t we just have a “weekend timetable”, rather than separate, complex and confusing timetables that separate the two days? If we were really smart we’d match up the off-peak weekday timetable with the weekend one, so that people travelling off-peak would know the timetable was the same seven days a week.

Is this difference between Saturdays and Sundays perhaps a hangover from the days when everyone was paid more on Sundays, and companies tried to reduce their wage bill by cutting back on services?

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  1. Overseas there is genereally two timetables – a workday timetable and a weekend and holiday timetable, actually there’s usually a third timetabke being late night services during the weekend.

  2. In 1998 on a Sunday we caught the train in San Diego, in Mission Valley which was the intersection of the I5 & I8.
    It was a Sunday and we wanted to go to Tijuana and decided we could go by train so walked across to the train station and not knowing the timetable where prepared to wait a while.
    To our surprise we found that the train was running every every 20 minutes. On a Saturday the trains ran every 10 minutes. At a cost of about $2.00us to the border. Now i am not sure how long the train trip was but it would have to have been all of 30 to 40 miles to the border and then return.
    You can not tell me that at $2.00 each way was covering the costs but the trains where great and stopped right at the border after a trip through the city and skirting the navel dockyards.
    As for Auckland, they are still stranded in the dark ages and deserve a boot up the bum.
    What about a Sunday trip to the City, Newmarket or Silvia Park at the very least.

  3. Harkens back to the good ole days when the shops were pretty much all closed on Sundays and drivers earned double-time, I suspect.

  4. @rtc

    Hourly on the western line and then only between Britomart and New Lynn although at present there are no Sunday trains, only aged Ritchies’ buses. All in all a pretty pathetic level of service.

  5. Service levels are passable on the Eastern Line to Sylvia Park – hence why catching the train there on the weekends is so popular. The Western Line is pathetic on both Saturdays and (particularly) Sundays, although at the moment it doesn’t really matter as the Western seems closed most weekends for Project DART works.

    Once New Lynn station and Grafton station are finished in the middle of the year, hopefully we see a simple “weekend” timetable for the Western Line with trains every 30 minutes along its whole length.

  6. Agreed… was hoping on catching the train home tonight (eastern line) after the fireworks show at the viaduct. Last train leaves Britomart at 10.40 though and fireworks only finish at 11. You’d think with all the anniversary weekend festivities the trains would run to midnight like fri and sat.

  7. My understanding is that lower Sunday service level was generally historic based on shop trading hours and the greater cost of labour on Sundays and public holidays vs. weekdays.

    There was a period in the late 90’s when places like Christchurch started to introduce common Saturday and Sunday timetables reflecting the 7 day nature of shopping and lack of any labour cost loading for Sundays and public holidays. Changes to labour rules by the last government however I understand put a damper on that with labour costs again being higher on Sundays/public holidays.

    In Christchurch Sunday Patronage would generally be around a quarter to a third less than Saturday’s even with matching levels of frequency. So higher costs combined with lower usage is the answer.

  8. It is a pretty easy fix, implement Sat timetables on Sundays… I guess the problem is funding for the extra services…

    1. “I guess the problem is funding for the extra services…”

      ARTA is trimming back bus services. And with NZTA wanting a 50% farebox return, its scary to think how much more slash and burn will occur. Increased train services are pie in the sky unless the central government gets serious about funding sources to improve PT.

      1. I guess we will see how much money Auckland Transport has to spend on public transport stuff. Theoretically at least there will be a bigger pot, we just have to see how much of a slice public transport services gets.

        I think that it’s unlikely NZTA will go with the hard 50% farebox recovery ratio. There was almost no support for that option in the submissions, and even Steven Joyce has admitted that no thought went into coming up with that number.

  9. I don’t think there would be a higher labour cost on Sundays than Saturdays. The only change to the law made by the previous government related to pay rates on public holidays.

    Patronage at the moment on Sundays in Auckland is probably lower than Saturdays, but I would imagine a big reason for that would be the lower service levels. Saturdays often tend to mirror the provision levels of inter-peak weekdays (although stupidly the times often don’t match up), whereas Sundays can be half that. My point being that if we improved Sunday frequencies we are likely to increase patronage.

    I don’t know whether the cost would be particularly significant as it’s not like any new buses would be needed.

  10. I would say that it is partly for maintenance requirements and partly because of the usurious rates charged by Kiwirail for locomotive engineers.

    Whilst I agree that it is annoying that there is only a 30 minute service from Papakura (and none from Pukekohe) and an hourly service on Sundays on the NAL between Westfield and Britomart, I would assume that it is cost that precludes a more frequent timetable.

  11. Most of the trains running on the weekends are the ADLs/ADKs, although there is the occasional SA Train.

    The Southern/Eastern line services on a Sunday is passable, with Eastern Line trains every 30 minutes. The Western Line is embarrassing, with trains only going hourly, and only as far as New Lynn.

  12. Just a hangover from old trading hours. It is perhaps worse in parts of Melbourne, there are some buses in Melbourne that still don’t run past 12.30pm on a Saturday because shops in the suburbs used to close at midday. The extended the trading hours to 5pm a bit over twenty-five years ago, but they have yet to adjust the bus timetables!

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